Exorbitant costs: $1Billion (that’s 1,000 Million of your taxpayer dollars) for security alone—and it will likely be much more when the bills finally come in. That doesn’t include the Fake Lake, the rest of the non-security hosting costs, let alone the tally for lost tourism, lost business and destruction of retail premises. No one knows what those costs will end up being—despite our repeated requests, the Harper government avoids all of our questions. The only thing we DO know is that the cost will have been enormous. And now, questions are mounting about favouritism and indeed possible corruption in the awarding of lucrative contracts. We will continue to probe, through the House of Commons National Security Committee and otherwise.
Unwarranted force, arrests and our civil liberties: I join the many others calling for a public inquiry based on what happened on the streets of Toronto. Despite all the excuses about “security”, the world saw Toronto—this fabulous, colourful, vibrant, safe and friendly city—as a war zone wasteland with burning cars, police violence and a trampling of civil liberties. The examples of unwarranted arrests, intimidation and inappropriate treatment of innocent, peaceful civilians continue to mount. We MUST stand for human rights, civil liberties, free speech, freedom of (peaceful) association and protest. These are critical in a democracy—it’s about far more than simply voting. Only when these rights are protected, indeed promoted, is a vote, a society, truly democratic. Not only must our police and government officials show the highest respect for these fundamental laws and liberties—they are supposed to be ones protecting them. In this case they didn’t. We must insist that they do. An inquiry is needed. The Ontario ombudsman will now review the ‘quiet’ introduction of sweeping powers (see the Globe and Mail article), and the Toronto Police have initiated a civilian review of police conduct—but Stephen Harper’s government appears to have been at the core of the decisions and the orders being given. We need to know what those orders were, who was giving them, what position those orders may have forced the Toronto police into, and who, ultimately was directing this reprehensible response.
Stephen Harper’s G20: The blame for much of this lies squarely with Stephen Harper. Harper’s last-minute decision to include the G20 in downtown Toronto (he gave the City all of 15 minutes’ notice before the public announcement); Harper’s refusal to consider options, even after Toronto itself expressed major concerns about costs, loss of revenue, security, and a multitude of other real problems for Torontonians; Harper’s handing Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair and the Toronto police a near-impossible security task while, it appears, insisting that the Integrated Security Unit be coordinated from the Privy Council Office; the Harper government’s incompetence at managing money (your taxpayer dollars!), allowing costs to spiral out of control... Stephen Harper must be held accountable to Canadians for this.
The Liberal Party’s reaction: We have demanded answers from the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews. We have also joined in a request with other opposition MPs to have the House of Commons National Security Committee meet as soon as possible to investigate just what happened, and why, and asking Minister Toews to appear. Questions Liberals are asking, and which we hope can be asked at Committee soon, include: Who was ultimately giving security commands during the G20? Who designed the security plans for the G20? What security advice did the government consider before putting the summit in downtown Toronto? How were the contracts for security assistance (and indeed other summit hosting requirements) awarded? What was done, if anything, to manage costs? Who was responsible for the awarding of those contracts and what were the criteria? Given the Harper government refusal to answer almost any question, this will be tough, but we will continue to push.
Canada’s international role: I may be biased, given my own background in international relations and international law, but Canada should be playing a significant part in world affairs—more even than we are now. We have long punched above our weight, and as an example of a successful economy, of an even more successful pluralistic society based on our tremendous diversity and other strengths, and militarily (WWI, WWII, the Korean War, peacekeeping and Afghanistan). We have a real role to play on the international stage, a terrific opportunity to lead by example. As the influence of the G8 wanes and the importance of the G20 increases, it is critical that Canada have a significant role in the G20, particularly now in its early stages. (Kudos to former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin who, a number of years ago, proposed the idea of the G20 as an international financial forum in the first place.) Despite all of what has happened, I’m not upset that Canada agreed to host the G20, as part of the responsibility of that international role. I AM, however, very upset at how extraordinarily mismanaged the whole affair was by the Harper government. Exorbitant costs, unwarranted force, trampling of civil liberties, questions of favouritism and indeed possible corruption in the awarding of lucrative contracts—Canadians demand answers, and the world is watching....Stephen Harper must be held to account.